Friday, December 30, 2011

San Cristobal de las Casas – cooling down up in the mountains

San Cristobal de las Casas is a town in the mountains in the Chiapas region, 2000m above sea level. I took a whirlwind minicab ride from the Palenque jungle and was greeted by a cold cold night air when I arrived to San Cristobal. I wouldn’t say I was delighted to be there, tired from the jerky ride, arriving to a dark, wet and cold little town. After a long walk through town (thinking ‘ok, the walking street and the restaurants look nice’) I got to my hostel, took a hot shower and collapsed to my bed.

The morning was even colder than the night and I was in shock – I want back to the beach, NOW! I decided to give the city a try and went out for a walk wearing basically all of the clothes I could think of, luckily all my warmest clothes were clean! And I could finally give the all the sand, sea and sweat covered clothes to the hostel laundry. Before 9am it was still nicely cool out and I was enjoying my ski pants. But suddenly, some point between 10 -11 it was so hot I couldn’t take my clothes off fast enough. The sun was really piercing! First looking for the sun and now looking for the shades, I continued through the town. There were lots of lovely pedestrian streets with shops of beautiful local handcrafted clothes, bags, woodcarvings, clay animals, Zapatista dolls. The area seemed to be full of artisans and artists (my mom would have loved it!).

There are two churches on the hills on two opposite sides of the town, Iglesia de Guadalupe and Iglesia de San Cristobal (and many many other churches too…). From both hills there are nice views of the town and its mountainous surroundings. I walked to both on the first day I was there, the mountain air might have been slowing my step but it was nice to walk in the cool air.

In the evening I got together with an English couple I had met in Merida and we went out for drinks. We got a Canadian guy Nick to join us and I continued my mission of finding a salsa club. And wasn’t too hard, right on the pedestrian street “20 of November”, along with all the other bars, was a salsa club Zirko (in the corner of “5 of March”). Lots of people dancing and after 10.30pm there was a Hawaian (?) dance number and the band started with some live salsa & merengue – wohoo! I was brave enough to ask a local salsero to dance with me and though it didn’t go too well for me (‘where’s the 1.. what foot am I on?’) I was happy I did it since after that I didn’t have to (or get to) sit down once for the rest of the evening!! Just as I finished a dance with one guy another one would come ask me to dance.. WOW, that was fun! There seemed to be only good dancers there, both doing the LA and Cuban style. I was disappointed that I wasn’t feeling too well so I had to go to bed earlier than I would have liked to. But was a really fun night, meeting some “old friends” and making new ones, and getting my salsa on!

The next day was a really slow one – I spent first the night and then the day in bed with stomach problems. First ones on my trip! As soon as I stopped eating Mexican food… Luckily it wasn’t too awful and was out on the late afternoon to get some fruits and went to meet up with my new friend Nick in the evening. Together with some Australian girls from Nick’s hostel we all went out for a nice dinner. A quiet day for a while, why not!

Despite spending some time sick San Cristobal was turning out to be nice place – fun people, lots of cool things to see and shop, lots of nice cafés and restaurants with cuisine from all around the world, excellent people watching town. And it still retains some of the local character (which is missing from the newly built coast). Was easy to see why so many travelers like the place (and many seemed to have stayed there).

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